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Bolsonaro is the Amazon's "worst enemy", activists warn Biden

2021-04-08T04:49:36.688Z

When Biden was a candidate, he offered Brazil $ 20 billion to protect the Amazon, and Bolsonaro turned it down. Now things have changed.



Alarming deforestation figure in the Brazilian Amazon (December 2020) 1:02

(CNN) -

When then-presidential candidate Joe Biden offered Brazil $ 20 billion to protect the Amazon, President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed it with contempt.

Now, Brazilian activists worry that the two leaders will end up reaching an agreement.

The United States hopes to see "a very clear commitment" from Brazil to combat illegal deforestation in the Amazon before the summit of world leaders convened by Biden on April 22 to discuss the environment, a spokesman for the environment told CNN. State Department this week.

"We believe it is realistic for Brazil to achieve a real decrease in deforestation by the end of the 2021 fire season," they said.

Bolsonaro is the "worst enemy" of the Amazon, organizations warn Biden

However, a coalition of 198 Brazilian civil society organizations, including environmental and indigenous activists, is warning the United States not to trust its president on environmental issues.

In an open letter published Tuesday, the groups describe Bolsonaro as the "worst enemy" of the Amazon.

They also say that Bolsonaro should first meet his current obligations to stop deforestation.

"It is not sensible to expect that any solution for the Amazon will emerge from closed-door meetings with its worst enemy," says the letter addressed to the United States Government.

"Any project to help Brazil must be built from dialogue with civil society, subnational governments, academia and, above all, with local communities who know how to protect the forest and the goods and services it houses," he explains.

"No conversation should move forward until Brazil has reduced deforestation rates to the level required by the national climate change law and until it withdraws the series of bills sent to Congress that contain environmental setbacks," the letter added.

The Brazilian foreign minister told CNN in a statement that the United States and Brazil are "studying the possibility of deepening bilateral cooperation" on environmental and deforestation issues.

He explained that the discussions are "strictly intergovernmental."

Brazil's environment ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

What has the Bolsonaro government done for the Amazon?

The efforts made so far by the Bolsonaro government to protect the Amazon could be generously described as ineffective.

Critics, for their part, go further, citing its record as evidence of a deliberate intention to weaken environmental protections.

In December, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which is often the result of illegal clearing operations, reached the highest levels in 12 years.

Amazon forest in danger, more than previously thought 0:49

The Brazilian president has said that the forest must be protected and approved several decrees with that objective.

Yet it has simultaneously encouraged industrial development there, stripped funds from agencies responsible for preventing illegal logging, ranching, and mining, and backed legislation that would legalize extractive industries such as oil and gas on indigenous lands. .

Losing more Amazon territory could have repercussions across the globe.

The Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, is a vital defense against climate change.

The abuse of human activities in wild places like this has also been linked to the spread of new diseases like COVID-19.

Biden's stance

Biden has shown great awareness of the importance of forests for the health of the planet.

Last year he pledged during the election campaign to mobilize a global effort to pressure Brazil to protect the Amazon, including that $ 20 billion carrot for Brazil to "stop cutting down the forest" or face economic consequences.

Bolsonaro, a fan of then-Biden rival Donald Trump, took it badly at the time.

He accused Biden of having "greed" for the Amazon and said he would not accept "bribes" or "threats."

However, things have changed since Biden became president.

"The negotiating teams of the two countries have met to deepen understanding of the needs and opportunities to improve the Amazon biome and combat illegal deforestation, among other issues," the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN.

"The dialogues have progressed consistently in areas of interest to Brazil, such as financing and technical collaboration aimed at actions to combat deforestation in the Amazon region," he added.

The United States views the country as a vital partner in mitigating climate change and reducing global emissions, the State Department spokesman said.

"Supporting and encouraging Brazil's actions to reduce deforestation and secure the path to a strong future with zero net emissions" is a "key focus" for the Biden administration, he explained.

Achieving this will require "solutions that include the participation of the local community, including indigenous and traditional communities, as well as new technologies and approaches to provide incentives," the spokesperson added.

Environmental activists' mistrust

However, some environmental defenders in Brazil are suspicious.

"We are very concerned about what is being negotiated now and what the bases of the agreement are," said Marcio Astrini, director of the Climate Observatory environmental network.

He also noted that the Bolsonaro government has not spent existing funds intended to fight deforestation.

And he expressed doubts that any additional money is being used well.

In a recent interview in the newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo, the Brazilian environment minister, Ricardo Salles, proposed allocating two thirds of a hypothetical new fund of environmental aid from abroad of US $ 1 billion to economic development actions in the Amazon areas.

One third would go to halt deforestation.

The United States has not said whether it would offer funds to Brazil for climate cooperation.

Neither the State Department nor the White House responded to requests for comment on Salles' remarks.

CNN's Flora Charner, Shasta Darlington, and Ivana Kottasova contributed to this report.

AmazonAmazoniaJair Bolsonaro

Source: cnnespanol

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